“All these possibilities at Academy Park” with the relocation and renovation of the bandshell
Fri Jun 18, 2021 10:00 AM
Lewiston Village plans move forward
By Josué Maloni
Managing Director / Editor-in-Chief
Standing in front of the moved Alphonso DiMino Memorial Bandshell on Wednesday morning, Lewiston Village Mayor Anne Welch and Deputy Mayor Vic Eydt couldn’t help but express their enthusiasm for what could be the Park of the Academy, now that its greatest asset is replaced.
“I think it’s awesome,” Welch said. “This is the perfect place for that. He should have been there to start, as it opens up to the whole park for concerts; the Peach Festival – they’ll love it.
Eydt said, “You come around the corner – you stop at the corner at the bottom – and you look at this monument (‘Circle of Honor’ veterans). It’s wide open. I mean, it’s just like, ‘Holy cow.’ Now that the grandstand has been moved and the bleachers are down, it’s incredible.
“It just opens up the park,” Welch said.
“It just opens up,” Eydt reiterated.
DiMino Lewiston Tops owner Anthony DiMino funded the creation of the bandshell 20 years ago. The structure originally stood just around the corner of Portage Road, with the stage facing Center Street. It has notably been used for Niagara County Peach Festival events such as concerts, dance competitions and the Peach Queen competition.
The bandshell is now located at the corner of Portage Road and Cayuga Street, across from Syros Restaurant and Warren’s Village Hardware. Its stage faces the field and will be able to accommodate more events.
That was about two years ago, Welch said Academy Park was not being used to its full potential. She formed a committee to formulate plans to increase usage, add art, and strengthen equipment.
Soon after, DiMino said he would cover the shell’s travel costs.
“My dad, who was a pillar of the community, needed something for people to remember him,” DiMino said. “He was very active in the Rotary Club. He was very active in a lot of things. And he supported this village, just as our family has supported this village since 1964. ”
DiMino explained, “It was not being used. And the reason they were saying was that he was faced the wrong way. If you had a band, they couldn’t see their music or anything, and so obviously I built the bandshell originally so that it could actually be used; that’s why I moved it.
The seating area in the green bleachers was demolished at the end of May 2020, but the pandemic slowed progress last year.
The foundations of the new bandshell site have been driven into the ground in recent weeks. The structure was driven across the field on Tuesday. Work continued on Wednesday, as FTH Enterprises of Amherst oversaw the installation.
DiMino said the new stage “is actually going to be twice the size of before. So that would be accommodating not just for the Fishing Festival. … You know, like they always had to lengthen the stage. They won’t have to. not to extend the scene.The scene will be larger.
“That’s what I originally wanted, because I felt I wanted a stage big enough to host the Buffalo Philharmonic. But it really wasn’t enough space. I think we should be able to live with it now.
“And we doubled the size of the staging area at the back not only for storage, but also for the larger rooms that required more space in the actual staging area. “
Artist’s impression of the Alphonso DiMino Memorial Bandshell upgrades. (Images courtesy of Giusiana Architects)
DiMino was hoping the bandshell would be relocated by Memorial Day, but “The COVID thing didn’t help matters.
“This move is two weeks behind our schedule. So now everything else is behind. We had to modify our original plans three or four times because of the lack of materials we plan to use. We are trying to get around this problem and make it for summer use.
The Lewiston Council on the Arts recently announced that its “Summer of 69” and “Blue Mondays” concert series will move from Hennepin Park to the larger Academy Park.
“I know that the Arts Council is going to set up a temporary stage. And then, if all goes well, we should be done by the end of July, ”said DiMino of the possibility that LCA could use the bandshell this season.
Welch thanked DiMino for his contributions.
“I am so grateful to her for doing this bandshell, originally, and now moving it at her expense,” she said. “I mean, having someone like that in the community to step in and do this for us is amazing.”
“Yeah, because we’ve never been able to do it on our own,” Eydt said.
“I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am,” Welch said.
What’s next for Academy Park
More changes are coming to Academy Park, some starting this summer:
• Former bandshell site:
Once the relocation process is complete and the remaining materials are collected, Welch said the Department of Public Works will proceed with the filing and seeding of the old bandshell site.
Eydt noted, “We’re going to leave the electricity here so that in the future we will look at the possibility of putting up a shelter up there – a pavilion up there. So, we had all this possibility. And electricity and water are already there if we wanted to.
Welch said, “I would like one or two pavilions for the people, because it’s so open now that you can have huge events here. And like I said, the concerts – you know you can fill this whole park. “
Adjacent to the former orchestra site is a gazebo that the Kiwanians of Lewiston used for the Fishing Festival announcements. It was also used last summer for the Lewiston Artisan Farmers Market.
Sadly, Welch said the hut was not in great condition. She called it the “Lewiston Leaning Tower”.
“We have to figure out what to do with this little gazebo, because it’s tilted. It has to either be structurally fixed or we will have to take it apart, ”she said.
Eydt noted: “It looks better than it is.”
Welch said, “Maybe we talk to Kiwanis and maybe they get their guys together to stabilize it and fix it, then (DPW Superintendent) Larry (Wills) can move it?”
The Town of Lewiston created a stone walkway in Academy Park to accommodate the installation of an ice rink which was operated in front of the bandstand during the pre-pandemic years. This attraction should not return to Academy Park.
“We’re going to leave the road, temporarily, at least during the fishing festival, and then we’ll probably get rid of it,” Eydt said.
• Comfort station:
“We’re going to start with the (remodel) washroom because we got the grant for it,” Welch said. “We get estimates for that; so, we are going to do it this summer too.
• Cycle path:
The Niagara River Greenway Trail, which crosses the Niagara Scenic Parkway to an exit ramp on Seneca Street, will circle Academy Park, descend Cayuga Street, climb Fourth Street to the Red Brick and the new inclusive playground, then continue on River Road to Youngstown.
Welch said a boardwalk will be created between the new bathroom building and the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce office.
• Charging stations for electric cars:
The village of Lewiston received a grant to install a pair of electric car charging stations. Eydt said one would be placed near the bedroom office, with a second on Water Street – likely near the fish cleaning station.
• Art installations:
Welch said it made sense to celebrate Lewiston’s famous arts community by showcasing artwork in or on the outskirts of Academy Park.
However, “We had to stop all artistic (planning) meetings, because of COVID,” she said. “We also have to start over. Mike Hibbard is trying to open his house (the new Gallo on Center and North Fourth streets), and he’s going to start with art there. But, yeah, I want to get the group together and see what we can do around the village, and maybe along the catwalk over there, put some coins and have some art in the park.
Overall, “I think we’re on the right track to remaking this park,” Welch said. “I think, as you can see, it’s a beautiful park; and move this and take the old bleachers apart.
“It’s just going to give it a whole new life,” Eydt said.
“And this is our first park; that’s what it’s supposed to be, ”Welch said. “It is intended for residents and visitors. … Like I said, it’s a big park where we can organize big events.
With the move of the Alphonso DiMino Memorial Bandshell to a new location this week, new options have opened up for Lewiston’s Academy Park. Additional work is planned for the toilet block area, and a link will be built with the Niagara River Greenway Trail.
Top and bottom images courtesy of Marianne Gittermann
Photo by Terry Duffy
Photos by Joshua Maloni